Sunday, February 24, 2008

What I learned from my month of watching Buffy the Vampire Slayer

About a month ago I decided to weather the writer's strike by pulling out my collection of Buffy the Vampire Slayer DVDs. I have the full set, with all 7 seasons on DVD. I bought them one at a time although I've now discovered that you can buy a 40 disc box set with all 7 season and one bonus disc (affilliate link).

At first I figured I'd just watch Seasons 2 or 3, but 30 days and change later I've watched every episode from S2e1 through the series finale. And I have to say I find myself kind of uninterested in watching anything currently on TV, even after we start to see new episodes again. I mean, I'm sure the feeling will pass, but it's just sad to think that there's nothing on the air right now that seems to have the character depth and interesting plot lines that Buffy had. I mean sure, I'm looking forward to new episodes of BattleStar Galactica whenever that comes back. But it's just not as much fun to watch.

So I pulled out a book for the first time in a while today. When I was a kid I used to read a lot. Like a book every two days, a lot. They weren't particularly dense material. I'm talking about Piers Anthony, not Fyodor Doestoevsky. But some time around college when I found that I had to read things because people told me to and not because I wanted to, I kind of got out of the habit of reading regularly. And as much as I love some good TV or cinematic content, there's nothing like a good book to spark the imagination.

When I was a kid I wanted to be a writer. I wanted to craft the sort of Sci Fi stories that I enjoyed reading so much. The kind that were as much about people making difficult decisions under difficult situation as they were about completely unrealistic situations like individuals flying across the galaxy or living forever. After a while I guess I decided that I didn't necessarily have those stories in me, but I'm constantly amazed to realize that I do actually make my living today by writing and telling stories. They just happen to be true stories instead of fiction with an aspect of the truth in them.

But it's been a while since I feel like I've really challenged myself as a writer. Watching Buffy reminded me of what really good writing looks like, even if it was in a televised format. Sure, it's been my favorite show for the better part of a decade. But it's been years since I actually sat down and watched an episode. And once I started watching, I couldn't stop.

I don't plan on writing a screenplay anytime soon. But I'm starting to feel like it's been a while since I've truly challenged myself as a writer. I really hope I have it in me to craft the sort of story that once you start, you can't stop. In the meantime, I think I've found some temporary inspiration to start reading again, seeking out good stories and good storytelling. And that can come in many forms, from the big or small screens, to radio, to books. But in a way, I feel like watching Buffy again after all these years was a good reminder that I still have a lot to learn as a storyteller.


Anonymous said...

Heh. Agree completely about B-uffy. ;)
Watch Angel or Babylon 5 (if you haven't seen them.) B5, Angel and Buffy are about the best television there is. Watching anything after those three shows will leave you wanting.

Brad Linder said...

Yeah, I watched Angel when it was on the air, but I never bought the DVD set because it always seemed a bit sillier. Having watched Buffy again, I kind of wish I at least had the crossover episodes because they make references to Angel in BTVS eps, but c'est la vie.

I never really got into B5, but I do like J. Michael Straczynski's stuff. I read a comic book or two that he wrote. Maybe one of these days I'll go rent B5 on DVD.

Max-Ray said...

I was actually depressed when Fox stopped showing their reruns of Buffy early each weekday morning. Guess I'll have to get the DVD's. To fill that void, I watched all of the Babylon 5 episodes. I too feel bad I never got hooked on Angel.
Firefly would also be a good add to the list of Great TV. But that's Whedon too!

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